Tuesday, April 19, 2011


As someone who's built more than a few PCs from parts, I occasionally get the itch to tinker with things; sometimes even when they're not meant to be tinkered with, but that's another story.

This time, I decided to focus my attention on my PS3 and the often-painfully-slow 5400 RPM hard drive that the system ships with.

True, for the most part, the default PS3 hard drive gets the job done, but as someone who plays a lot of downloaded Playstation Network games and Blu-Ray-based games like "Gran Turismo 5" that require massive hard drive installs and usage, I felt like it was time to give the system a little more oomph.

In and of itself, replacing the hard drive in a PS3 is a pretty simple and well-documented process, involving just a few tools and a few hours of time (most of which is spent backing up and restoring data to and from USB storage). The interesting part for me was the question of what type of 2.5" SATA drive to use as a replacement. After careful consideration of several 7200 RPM, 10000 RPM and Solid State drives, I decided to go with a 90GB Corsair Force CSSD-F90GB2-BRKT that I snagged from newegg for $180. A little pricey I know, but I wanted to be as sure as possible that the drive would perform well in terms of speed and stability, and the Corsair had all the right features and reputation for quality.

Why SSD you might ask?

  • SSDs use less power, which generates less heat inside the console.
  • SSDs have no moving parts, so the console being moved or bumped can't affect the drive; though the Blu Ray drive is of course still susceptible to such movement or jarring.
  • SSDs make no sound. Not that you'd hear it over the monster fans in the PS3 anyway. :)

Basically, with SSD, you get the performance of a 10,000+ RPM drive with far less heat and power consumption than even the stock 5400 RPM models.

Having said that, there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of:

SSD is still a relatively new technology when compared with traditional 2.5" internal hard drives and much like those drives were when they first came along, larger capacity SSDs can lack the level of performance and stability necessary to happily interact with a device like the PS3 whose operating system doesn't support advanced SSD control and maintenance functions like TRIM. In short, TRIM allows space on the drive to be reclaimed at the time of deletion as opposed to waiting until the deleted blocks are about to be written to again. Without TRIM, an SSD has to spend twice as much time writing to parts of the drive that had previously contained other data. This isn't a huge deal on the PS3 because much more reading than writing takes place on the PS3's hard drive, but it's something to keep in mind.

Some SSD drives (such as the Corsair I used) have built in controller firmware that help to keep the drive in an optimal state even without support from an operating system, but the performance and capability of such functions varies from drive to drive, so it pays to do your homework. Different SSDs from the same manufacturer that represent different iterations of the technology can perform very differently depending on where they're being used (i.e. a drive that works great in a PC might not work so well in the PS3 if the PS3s OS doesn't support all its capabilities and there are no built in drive functions to pick up the slack).

So far, I've been very happy with my decision to upgrade the hard drive in my PS3 to an SSD. Most hard drive-based games load about twice as fast, some games like GT5 that load large, contiguous blocks of data at a time are even faster, and the general performance of anything the PS3 does that involves the hard drive (including the Netflix app and the XMB) has increased noticeably.

 I'm a bit concerned about the long-term performance of the drive in terms of speed as the overwriting of existing data blocks becomes more common over time, but so far (having already patched a few games) I haven't seen anything to worry about.

I'll update this post as I use the new drive over time, but so far so good.

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